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Placerville - The Great Adversary

By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 21 Feb 2011 | PUNE


The Northern Dancer horse Razeen passed away just as the new covering season was getting underway. Hardly had the week ended before his great adversary, Placerville, a son of Mr. Prospector, also breathed his last. Razeen was 24 and Placerville 21 so they had already entered the twilight phase of their magnificent careers. Still, the two deaths, one following the other, have descended on the Indian breeding industry as a crushing blow. Placerville had not enjoyed the best of health for sometime.

Placerville There were many similarities in their racing and stud careers. Both were born in Kentucky; one was a son of Northern Dancer while the other had Mr. Prospector as his sire. Both started their racing careers from Henry Cecil's Warren Place yard in Newmarket. Both raced five times in England (Razeen later went to USA, where he had four starts) and both won three races. Razeen, who was ridden in all his races by Steve Cauthen, started the favourite for 1990 Epsom Derby, choked -- he was afflicted with a wind problem -- after coming round Tattenham Corner and finished in the ruck. Placerville - Pat Eddery was astride him in his five starts - broke down, suffering a saucer fracture, in winning the Prince of Wales's Stakes, Gr.2 at Royal Ascot in which he beat Urban Sea, later to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Gr.1 in the autumn and has since been a star broodmare. Razeen sported the colours of Sheikh Mohammed; Placerville carried the livery of Prince Khaled Abdullah.

Razeen came to India as a stallion and started his second innings from 1992. Placerville followed him two years later and covered his first mare in 1994. Since then, they have been the perennial rivals, vying for the top honours in Indian breeding. The honours, it has to be said, are pretty much even. They were both Champion Freshman Sires. Both claimed their first Champion Sire crown when their first crop was contesting the winter Classics. For the next ten years, the Champion Sire accolade belonged to one or other and at the time of their death each had six titles to his credit. Their statistics, as of 31 October 2010, too are very similar:-

Razeen: 15 crops, 490 foals, 419 named foals, 198 black-type performers, 1,827 wins and almost Rs 63 crore in stakes.

Placerville: 13 crops, 595 foals, 537 named foals, 157 black-type performers, 1,818 wins and nearly Rs 63 crore in stakes.

Both Razeen and Placerville sired four winners each of the Poonawalla Breeders' Million, the premier juvenile race in the country. They both sired four winners of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Razeen had 15 winners of 19 Indian Classics; Placerville's tally was 12 winners of 16 Indian Classics. If Razeen had six winners of the Indian Oaks, Placerville had half a dozen Indian St. Leger winners. Razeen produced an Indian Triple Crown winner in Indictment; Placerville struck back with Smart Chieftan. It doesn't get any closer than that.

Larger books certainly favoured Placerville who had the numbers on his side. The slight edge that the Usha Stud stalwart enjoys is in siring four winners of the Indian Derby to Placerville's one and six winners of the Derby Bangalore as against the three to the credit of the Poonawalla Farms standard-bearer. Also, Razeen's score of 56 all-India Classic winners of 108 Classics is higher than Placerville’s tally of 39 winners of 72 Classics. Placerville, however, will end up having sired more winners of more races and earning more stake money than any other stallion in the history of Indian breeding. Their respective records will stand for a long time to come.

The statistics illustrate how closely they were matched and how fortunate the Indian breeding industry has been to have a son of Northern Dancer and a son of Mr. Prospector - two outstanding progenitors of worldwide repute - coming up trumps in India. What is unfortunate, given the anathema attached to standing Indian-bred stallions, is that they have left no worthwhile sons to further their heritage. Their legacy will remain alive only through their daughters. Fortunately, those daughters have already demonstrated their prowess. Razeen has been the Champion Broodmare Sire in three of the last four years. It needs no guessing to name who got the title in the year he missed out. Placerville, of course.

Razeen and Placerville may be no more. But they will continue to battle through their daughters. We should be grateful for that.